1. American girl arrives in port city, China; 2004
I still remember stepping out, clutching
all we owned, inhaling salty air—
air streaked with smells ineffable. And their
eyes and ours brought from so far, now touching.
Windows to the soul. And manmade titans
scrape the sky, and vehicles of every
type you could imagine, packed conjointly
like us in our cab. And red flags, tridents
foreshadowing the mornings in the sun
in line, in uniform, and synchronized
with stiff salutes and voices lifted high
in praises of their country. All as one—
one sea of ebony that tried to shroud
our distinct heads of blonde hair and light brown.
2. American girl on life in Chinese city; 2013
I’ll tell the truth— sometimes I would forget
while riding in a tightly packed subway
that we were more than faces in the waves
despite how we tried to blend with the rest;
felt camouflaged— expression and our dress
now matching theirs. But we were wolves,
devouring their culture. Our own selves
becoming just like sheep to some success.
Their tones of black note musicality
spilled from our lips. We spoke another tongue
some time ago. But now we sing out hymns
unsung in that republic of the free,
that place where my heart used to run; but now
what once I thought was foreign is my home.
3. American? girl returns to the States; 2014-present
They welcomed me home, but didn’t know
my loss. I hadn’t brought back everything
while I was packing. No space enough for something
I’d grown to know so closely. And so
I study all my catalogued traditions
to pick and choose which custom is my own,
or rather, just survive. I’ll find the flow
and I’ll survive the waves. The conditions
demanding of me constant oscillation.
I see what is required for my projection—
I give appearance of full acclimation,
although my heart feels pulled in two directions.
“Where are you from?” the question that I fear;
“Where am I from?” I ask myself, unclear.